Sun take Ogwumike No. 1 in WNBA draft, deal ex-MVP to Liberty
It was a busy draft night for the Connecticut Sun.
Minutes after taking Chiney Ogwumike with the top pick in the WNBA draft Monday night, the Sun made a blockbuster deal to trade 2012 MVP Tina Charles to the New York Liberty.
The Sun acquired the Liberty’s fourth pick this year which turned out to be Alyssa Thomas as well as Kelsey Bone and New York’s first-round pick next year. Charles had told the Sun that if she wasn’t traded she’d sit out this year.
"We’re not going to be held hostage by anybody," Sun vice president and general manager Chris Sienko said. "We had to do what’s best for our organization and fan base. New York came back with a significant offer. . . . That’s a great trade."
Ogwumike joined her sister Nneka, drafted by Los Angeles in 2012, as the only siblings to be chosen first in the WNBA.
"To be picked No. 1 in front of those Connecticut fans with my family and sister, it’s unreal," Chiney Ogwumike said.
Peyton and Eli Manning are the only other siblings to be taken No. 1 in the history of the four major American pro sports according to STATS.
"When someone told me that I was like, `Whoa, that’s pretty cool,’ " Chiney Ogwumike said. "We fell into the sport and found our passion in it and now it’s life. To share that moment with my sister, she’s the reason I play, and to be called a No. 1 draft pick is inconceivable."
Chiney Ogwumike finished her stellar career at Stanford as the top scorer and rebounder in Pac-12 history.
The choice of the two-time AP All-American drew loud cheers from the crowd at the Mohegan Sun Arena, where Connecticut plays its home games. This was the first time fans were allowed to attend the draft since it was held in Tampa in 2008.
"The fans were great," Chiney Ogwumike said. "It was really awesome having them here and having them be part of my draft experience."
Odyssey Sims of Baylor went second to Tulsa, which means she’ll team up with Skylar Diggins in the backcourt. Sims was happy for a chance to play with her former rival.
"Me and Skylar will make a great backcourt," said Sims, who finished this season with 1,054 points — second all time for a single year. "
San Antonio took Notre Dame’s Kayla McBride with the third pick.
"This is surreal," McBride said. "It was so awesome to have the fans cheering for me, I’m not used to that in Connecticut."
The Indiana Fever selected Natasha Howard of Florida State with the fifth pick. UConn teammates Stefanie Dolson and Bria Hartley went with the next two picks to Washington and Seattle. Hartley was later traded by the Storm to the Mystics to reconnect the Huskies.
Louisville star Shoni Schimmel went eighth to the Atlanta Dream. The Indiana Fever took Notre Dame’s Natalie Achonwa with the ninth pick. Achonwa tore her ACL in the Final Four and will most likely miss the entire season.
The Chicago Sky took N.C. State’s Markeisha Gatling with the 10th pick. The Sun drafted injured Duke star Chelsea Gray 11th and her Blue Devils teammate Tricia Liston went to Minnesota to close out the first round.
The ceremony was held in primetime for the second straight year. Training camps open April 27, and the WNBA’s 18th season tips off on May 16.